Melissa Gilbert is an American actress, television director, and producer best known for her role as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the NBC drama series Little House on the Prairie. She is a two-time Emmy Award winner and has been nominated for a Tony Award.
Gilbert was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Barbara Crane (née Cowan) and Harold Abel Gilbert. She has four older siblings: actors Jonathan Gilbert and Sara Gilbert, producer/writer/director Leah Rozen, and actress/writer/producer Patricia Gilbert. Gilbert’s father died of a heart attack when she was just 8 years old.
Gilbert began her acting career at the age of 12, landing the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder on the NBC drama series Little House on the Prairie. She played the role for nine seasons, from 1974 to 1983. Gilbert won two Emmy Awards for her work on the show.
After Little House on the Prairie ended, Gilbert appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies and guest-starred on various television series. In 1988, she made her Broadway debut in the play The Heidi Chronicles. She also starred in the CBS sitcom Roseanne from 1988 to 1997.
Gilbert has been married three times. Her first husband was actor Bruce Boxleitner, with whom she has two sons: Michael Garrett Boxleitner and Dakota Brinkman Boxleitner. She was married to actor Timothy Busfield from 2013 to 2016. She is currently married to actor and director Jordan Donica.
Screenwriter, Politician, Film producer, Voice Actor, Producer, Businessperson, Television Director
Timothy Busfield, Bruce Boxleitner, Bo Brinkman
Dakota Brinkman, Michael Boxleitner
Kathy Wood, David Darlington, Barbara Cowan, Paul Gilbert
Jonathan Gilbert, Sara Gilbert, Claudia Cowan
TV Land Most Memorable Kiss Award, Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Debut Performance
Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Drama, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie, People's Choice Award for Favorite Young TV Performer
Switched at Birth, Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story, A Family of Strangers, Cries from the Heart, Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife, Little House on the Prairie, Joshua's Heart, Christmas in My Hometown, Forbidden Nights, Dying to Remember, Safe Harbour, House of Secrets, Family Secrets, ...
Batman: The Animated Series, Sweet Justice, Little House on the Prairie, Stand By Your Man
Women in their twenties are beautiful. But women in their forties? There's something magical there.
[Of Michael Landon]: I wanted him to be my father substitute. I loved that man and I loved the way I always felt safe, crying with him. Now, granted, it was on film. But generally, I was crying about what was going on with me for real when I was with him. And he was always there to hold me. That's the only time I let that stuff out. So, he was there in most of these scenes, comforting me. It was sort of a father/daughter relationship in my eyes.
[on her on- and off-screen chemistry with Michael Landon, who played Charles Ingalls]: He was very much like a 'second father' to me. My own father passed away when I was 11, so, without really officially announcing it, Michael really stepped in.
[on her own journey]: I saw an opportunity at a time in my career when, like many female actors my age, opportunities are drying up left and right. So for me to have a chance to do something new and create a new facet to my career at 45 is a blessing I just couldn't ignore.
[on what it's like to be famous]: For months you've referred to me as your hero, but it's easy to be brave when I have you to come home to, and hide behind, and hold on to. I wish you the happiest birthday ever... . Let's eat!
[on comparing her co-star's, Karen Grassle's, "Caroline Ingalls" character to her own]: Karen's "Ma" always reminded me of Grace Kelly. My Ma's a little more feisty, a little more earthy, I'm a redhead. So is Ma in this show. So there's some fire under those petticoats.
It reminds people of what we as humans and Americans are capable of if we do it together. We tend to live in bubbles. ... There is very little real sense of community anymore. This show reminds people of that.
[About Little House on the Prairie (1974)]: Not a day goes by that I don't think about it and burst into tears. It's like stepping through a looking glass. There's a part of me that's always going to be Laura. I think every girl has a Laura in them.
Thank God I have four sons. The mother/daughter relationship is one of mankind's great mysteries, and for womankind, it can be hellaciously complicated. My mother and I are quintessential examples of the rewards and frustrations, and the joys and infuriations it can yield.
We take pride in each other - we were meant to be together.
Delivered the eulogy at the memorial service for her friend and mentor, Patty Duke, on April 16, 2016. Duke was "Annie Sullivan" to Gilbert's "Helen Keller" in the 1979 production of The Miracle Worker (1979). Similarly, in June 2005, Patty Duke gave the eulogy at Anne Bancroft's memorial service. Bancroft was "Annie Sullivan" to Duke's "Helen Keller" in the original The Miracle Worker (1962) in 1962.
On August 14, 2015, she announced that she is running for a seat in Congress from Michigan.
In her autobiography she lists Charlie Brill as her godfather and his wife, actress/comedienne Mitzi McCall, as her godmother.
Was one of 500 young girls who auditioned for the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the TV series Little House on the Prairie (1974) and she was the only one whose screen test was sent to be considered by NBC. It was Michael Landon's daughter Leslie Landon who told Melissa that she had won the role of Laura when the two of them stood in line at their school cafeteria.
Had a combined family with her ex-husband, Bruce Boxleitner: Bruce had two sons, Sam Boxleitner (b. 1980) and Lee Boxleitner (b. 1985). Melissa became a mother when her first child, Dakota Brinkman (Dakota Paul Brinkman), was born on Monday, May 1, 1989, while she was married to Bo Brinkman. She had one son with Bruce, Michael Garrett Boxleitner, who was born on Friday, October 6, 1995.
In national voting completed on Friday, 2 November 2001, she was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild, taking the position held since November 1999 by William Daniels, who declined to run for another term. She held the position until 2005, when she was replaced by Alan Rosenberg.
Adopted half-sister of Sara Gilbert. Sara is the natural daughter of Barbara Cowan and Harold Abeles. Cowan and late husband Paul Gilbert together adopted Melissa and Jonathan Gilbert (they are not biologically related to each other). Sara took her stepfather's surname when she began acting in 1984.
Had a highly publicized relationship with Rob Lowe during the 1980s, and they were reportedly at one time engaged.